A New Kind of Book Review

The first book was written 5,000 years ago, and the first book review 4,999 years, 11 months, and 28 days.  There’s been quite the hubbub ever since, particularly when it comes to reviews of poetry.  Should we waste space writing negative reviews, when so many brilliant collections languish in the shadows?  But if they’re always positive, don’t they become as uninteresting and distrusted as blurbs?  Does critical opinion even matter?  Is any publicity good publicity?  And so on.  Here are some recent rounds of the brouhaha: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  (Hey, one of those is me!)  There are plenty more where that came from — if you read any of those articles, there will be links to other articles, with links to other articles, and so on.

Most of us fondle the elephant in the room, but for some reason we stop short of naming it.  Maybe (to borrow Marlon Carey) the elephant is just so evident that addressing it can’t be revelant.  Or maybe there are just too many careers at stake.  Either way, no one seems willing to confront how fundamentally subjective art really is, or how successful art — and I mean art that has the power to transform people — is an unharnessable snowball of luck and skill and temperament and vision and time and timing.  I’ve been to the contemporary art museum.  I’ve seen Frank Stella and Blue Square #2.  Doodles my kid could draw — and I don’t even have a kid!  It’s not, as Vonnegut muses, that there are detailed frescoes buried beneath three gallons from a Sherwin Williams color swatch.  Mark Rothko couldn’t have painted the Sistine Chapel.  And yet people are moved by post-minimalism and abstract expressionism — at least enough people to fill a room if you hang a painting there.

I’ve never read art criticism in my life, but I can tell you how Red Rectangle with Yellow Stripe works.  Stripped of all referents, all sense of time and place, the viewer is forced to enter the painting — is forced to daydream, not in the direction the artist commands, but anywhere the mind desires.  With all the claptrap of meaning removed, we see art finally for what it fundamentally is:  a mental mirror.  Art is the place we go to lose ourselves in the oneness of creation, and the best way lose yourself and touch the infinite is to dive deeper within (I don’t want to get off on a tangent, so just trust me on that).  Hence the subjective nature of art.

Every reader carries their own baggage on that journey, because there’s no one there to carry it for you — it’s an entirely private experience.  Through the dual miracles of nature and nurture, we all have a hell of a lot in common, but no two people share the same history or identity or logophilia.  We have moods that can change in minutes.  All of that effects the way we encounter books (or any works of art).  And everyone knows it.

Over on the Harriet blog, Thomas Brady posited that the public’s lack of interest in poetry is due to a failure to sustain consensus of opinion: “if no façade of objective stability exist over and above that subjectivity, and the public senses no objective control, public interest is sure to wane—eventually destroying contemporary poetry’s legitimacy.”  I would argue the opposite:  If anything turns the public off of poetry, it’s the pretense of objectivity — it’s the professor in your ear telling you that Edna St. Vincent Millay is great, when you can read for yourself and see that she does nothing for you.  In the baseball metaphor we were using, you don’t need a box score to tell you that Babe Ruth just hit a home run — you’re at the game, you can use your own eyes.  And the disconnect appears when that voice in your ear doesn’t match what you’re seeing on the page.  That’s why so many people who don’t read it say “I just don’t get poetry” — they’ve been taught that poetry is something to be gotten, instead of what it really is: something to be experienced.

Critics like to pretend that an official scorer is necessary, when we’d be better off at the other end of the press box — the TV booth, where there’s as much color commentary as there is analysis.  The game is right in front of us and we can score it ourselves; we just want the experience enhanced.  Tell me where to look, not what to think.

So three days before the quincimillenial anniversary of the first book review, I’d like to propose a new kind of book review (and maybe it’s not even new for all I know).  Let’s stop pretending these are objective critiques and start writing personal narratives — don’t tell me whether or not a book is good, tell me about your experience with the book.  Tell me why you picked it up in the first place — did you know the poet, were you drawn to the cover, the title, what was it?  Where did you read it?  How long did it take?  Were you transported immediately or did you daydream?  Which poems resonated with you and why?  The speaker in the poem reminded you of your sister?  Your experience of Brazil was different?  You’re growing tired of poems about divorce?  Why?

Not only would reviews like this be more interesting to read, but they’d be more honest, more true to the real experience of reading poetry.  Because every time you respond to a book, that response has just as much to do with you as it does to the author.  Let’s finally face it.

This is an idea we’ve been kicking around since publishing Cameron Conaway’s review of Clifton’s Voices.  Conaway starts and ends the review with an anecdote about having dinner with Clifton when she visited his college — it was a strange way to write a review, and at first we were skeptical, but the more we thought about it, the more we liked it.  And I think you can go a lot farther than Conaway did.

So we’ve decided to add this note on style to our guidelines.  Getting poets to follow guidelines — or often even to read them — is like herding cats, and we have dozens of traditional reviews scheduled to be published over the next few months.  But I’d like to gradually phase in this new style — the personal narrative review.  We have hundreds of books available for review, and we’d be happy to send you a few.  Anyone willing to write yourself into the script?

A Bunch of Hypercrits

hitsgraphThe graph on the right is “unique visitors” to Rattle.com. I had to crop out the y-axis, but you get the drift. On Saturday morning we went from our usual 1,000 or so visitors a day (is that good or bad for a website? I have no idea) to 20,000, thanks to the snowball effect of online networking. A couple people recommended the poem at StumbleUpon, and “Death and Tacos” by Nathaniel Whittemore went viral.

I love it when that happens, as it did last summer with Brett Myhren’s “Telemarketer.” The only difference is, that poem was posted before I turned Rattle.com into a blog, so there was no comment feature. The tens of thousands of people who read the poem simply read it and moved on.  This time around, a small fraction (0.1%?) are tossing in their two cents.

Reading through the comments, it occurred to me that poetry is facing another epidemic not many people are talking about.  If WaLS is the Bird Flu, this is the common cold; a less debilitating disease, but extremely pervasive.  Or maybe it’s Herpes.  Out of 17 comments, about half describe what they like about the poem, while the other half bicker about line edits. It sounds like an undergraduate creative writing workshop: “I think the poem would be stronger if you cut line 22.”  “I trip over the syntax.”  “Show don’t tell!”

Part of me feels sorry for Nathaniel Whittemore, despite his sudden popularity — his isn’t the only poem that’s being critiqued at Rattle.com right now.  The rush of readers would have you think otherwise, but looking back at previous comments as a whole, across all the post, the trend becomes obvious — a large portion of the comments are always critiques.

And that word “critique” is very specific.  I think it’s one thing to express a negative reaction to a piece of writing — and those comments are wonderful, as far as I’m concerned — but it’s another thing entirely to pick at a poem and try to offer “constructive criticism.”  Who, in this setting, is received advice?  This is a poetry magazine, not a classroom.  The author is god-knows-where, not on the other side of a laminate table.

What compels us to do this?  It doesn’t happen with fiction or other arts.  No one reads a short story in The New Yorker and says, “The story was alright, but it would have been stronger if you cut the penultimate paragraph.”  No one looks at a painting by Mark Vallen and says the woman’s shirt should be red instead of blue.  Maybe you say that stories in The New Yorker are too straightforward and neapolitan, or maybe you say you prefer abstract art to realism.  But you never micromanage the artist.  So why does poetry produce so many backseat drivers?

Here’s my guess:  Poetry isn’t popular.  We encounter fiction and visual art everywhere we go.   It’s half of every bookstore; it’s hung on every wall.  Maybe the frame cost more than the print you bought in bulk at Target, but it’s there.   Poetry isn’t ubiquitous.  Even when we’re with friends who read poetry, we don’t talk about it much.

There’s only one setting in which we’re used to having a discourse about poetry:  the poetry workshop.  That’s the only social venue we have — whether the workshop is at a coffee house, in a college class, or online — and I think most readers of poetry have encountered a workshop at some point in their lives, for two reasons.  1) There’s nowhere in our society that poetry is pushed on people except those settings, and 2) the fact is, most poetry fans are poets themselves.

So I think we get used to speaking about poetry in the scripted way, talking about line breaks and imagery and so on, and have never really learned how to talk about it any other way.  Call it another symptom of academization, but we’re nothing but a bunch of hypercrits — I’m guilty of it myself much of the time.

And we lose something because of it.  The point of poetry isn’t the critique, it’s the poem itself.  It’s the spontaneous emotional and intellectual reaction to language.  To pick a poem apart is to muffle that reaction.  That’s not to say every poem is moving or interesting, of course, or that there is a proper objective reaction to any poem at all.  If you don’t like what you just read, that’s perfectly fine — say “yuck” and move on.  Just react.  There’s no need to dissect it, unless we’re actually in a workshop. Otherwise, what are we gaining from the critique?

Or to quote Edith Wharton, “If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could probably have a pretty good time.”

Wet Asphalt Presents: WaLS

There was a great post yesterday on Wet Asphalt by J.F. Quackenbush, a former Rattle contributor, about the latest pox on literature, which he calls Writer as Lifestyle Syndrome (WaLS).  Symptoms include valuing the artist over the art, referring to all publishers as “markets,” and seeing publication as the only means of legitimization.

Wet Asphalt has always been one of my favorite literary blogs, even though they tend to talk more about SF than poetry, because of the curmudgeonly way they present cold hard truths, both entertainingly and honestly, and yesterday’s post is no exception.  WaLS has been spreading across the writing community for decades, and can be seen most acutely anywhere academics congregate — MFA programs and AWP conferences — maybe it’s all those shaking hands.

I’ve written about it before, without knowing the proper diagnosis, and first encountered its most virulent strain a few years ago, at a small conference put on by PEN West.  There were scantly attended panels and readings throughout the day, featuring some great poets no one seemed to care about.  Later that afternoon I was on a panel about how to get your poetry published, and suddenly it was standing-room-only — people were piling up on the floor, hanging from the heating ducts, and leaning in through the open windows — all in search of the secret to being published.  I have no idea where they came from, but I was surrounded.  I kept saying things like, if you want to be published, write good poems, you know, read a lot, and learn what poetry can do…  Then they’d raise their hands and ask another question about how to format their cover letter.  Should they staple their poems together or use a paperclip?

It’s everywhere you go.  People care more about publishing than they care about poetry.  Every editor says the same thing — just look at the numbers.  10,000 annual submitters, to a magazine with a press run of less than 5,000.   Obviously they aren’t all reading us. It’s particularly apparent when we receive fiction submissions — you’re telling me you can’t even bother to read the subtitle?

Quackenbush can only speculate about where the disease came from, suggesting that “it originated from wonkish industry watcher types interbreeding with the sorts of poseurs and dilettante’s that are to be found in and around the fringes of all creative endeavors.”  While this is probably true, I think we can get a little more specific.  One of the main symptoms is the use of the word “market,” which can easily be traced back to the Writer’s Market, the annual resource book for writers that’s been publishing continuously since 1921.  As Quackenbush points out, calling magazines a “market” doesn’t even make sense — while the magazines might be “buyers” of your writing, they’re not places where writing is bought and sold — but the Writer’s Market is.  As a collection of consumers, a kind of literary yellow pages, it’s named appropriately.  So it’s likely that the word “market” mutated for the WaLS-afflicted from this source.

What’s more, having a book like the Writer’s Market, as it was originally intended, makes sense.  The book listed paying markets for freelance writers trying to make a living — if you write an article on new trends in seafood recipes, it’s nice to be able to find a magazine that might want to buy it.  The problem is, Writer’s Market saw there was a niche for this kind of thing, and split it into nine different books, including Poet’s Market.  But poetry isn’t a career, it’s a fine art — no one’s ever been able to make a living selling poems.  If you became the staff poet of The New Yorker, and they published nothing but your two poems in every issue, you’d still qualify for food stamps (your annual salary would be about $15,000, I think).

So there’s this reward-based infrastructures set up, with no reward to give.  People think, I want to be a writer, and this is what writers do, they go to the library and write down addresses from the Writer’s Market, and they send in their submissions and wait for a response.  Stripped of its original reward, the publication itself becomes the reward, and the WaLS-afflicted poets are able to continue the ritual.

This is what it really is: Fetishism.  In every sense of the word.  A whole subset of writers today have fetishized publication — they’ve ascribed value to an object where no such value inherently exists.  As with a sexual fetish, they receive gratification from the artificial object as a replacement for the gratification that normally comes directly from the sex.   By pursuing publication, they become writers by proxy.  That’s why it doesn’t matter how obscure a publication credit is — it doesn’t matter if no one ever reads the magazine, as long as you can list it on your resume.  Think about it.  If what really mattered for a poet was just the audience, there would be no need for Poet’s Market at all — no one would care about publishing in magazines they’ve never heard of, because the unheard-of magazines have no relevant audience.  Poets would only send poems to magazines they like to read, in hopes of providing enjoyment to others with similar tastes.

Once you see WaLS for what it is, not so much a disease as a fetish, it becomes harder to get so worked up about it.  A sexual fetish is only considered a disorder when it causes psychological or physical discomfort for the person afflicted.  People all over the world simply embrace their fetishes, and moreover, find happiness and fulfillment in their lives because of them.  Do I really care if some guy happens to have a shoe fetish, and a whole closet full of hooker boots, if it makes him happy?  No, not at all.  And besides, aren’t I just a shoe saleman, in the end?  Don’t I do more business because of him?

Of course the writing would be better if they payed as much attention to crafting poems as they did cover letters, but at least they’re writing.

Lost Among the Pillars of Grass: The Three Poetries

Turning yesterday’s post on its head less than 24 hours later, I’ve been reading John Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath, and am forced to admit, once again, that there isn’t just one poetry.  There are whole swaths of people who get things out of poetry that I don’t care all that much about. And that’s a wonderful thing — I’m firmly opposed to the balkanization of poetry.

Here’s the second poem in the book, “They Dream Only of America”:

They dream only of America
To be lost among the thirteen million pillars of grass:
“This honey is delicious
Though it burns the throat.”

And hiding from darkness in barns
They can be grownups now
And the murderer’s ash tray is more easily–
The lake a lilac cube.

He holds a key in his right hand.
“Please,” he asked willingly.
He is thirty years old.
That was before

We could drive hundreds of miles
At night through dandelions.
When his headache grew worse we
Stopped at a wire filling station.

Now he cared only about signs.
Was the cigar a sign?
And what about the key?
He went slowly into the bedroom.

“I would not have broken my leg if I had not fallen
Against the living room table. What is it to be back
Beside the bed? There is nothing to do
For our liberation, except wait in the horror of it.

And I am lost without you.”

You need a decoder ring and a lot of time to figure it out, or maybe just a love for this kind of thing, but I’m pretty sure the poem is a homoerotic lyric, a love poem wrought with the pain of having to keep your love in the closet.  (Ashbery fans, correct me if I’m wrong.)  It took me about a half an hour and a couple dozen reads to come to this conclusion.

Lines like the second, “To be lost among the thirteen million pillars of grass,” are undeniably brilliant.  Here the most obvious allusion is to Walt Whitman, himself a homosexual poet, but the leaves of grass becoming instead “pillars” at once reveals the first phallic image among many in the poem, and also references Lot’s Wife turning into a pillar of salt for looking back at Sodom (which, of course, is where the word sodomize comes from).  Being “lost among the thirteen million” expresses the desire to be both hidden and open about one’s sexuality — to be hidden in plain sight — and I also wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that thirteen million is an estimate on the number of gay men in America in 1957, when the poem was written.

All this in one line.

Once you find that key, the rest of the fractured narrative starts to make sense — all the seminal fluids and phallic objects (the honey, the key, the cigar, and so on), the dark barn and the bedroom, dandelions and the lilac cube*, the “Please.”  (“Now he only cared about the signs…” — are all the signs, now, Freudian?)

But “They Dream Only of America” is more than just an occluded love poem. “There is nothing to do/ For our liberation, except wait in the horror of it.” After oppression, even freedom is a horror. And there it returns to Lot’s Wife — she turned to salt only when she looked back. Ashbery wrote the poem when he was thirty, living in Paris, the city to which he’d fled from the sexual restrictions of America — so Ashbery himself is looking back, turning to salt as he does.  But there’s more to it, even, than that — there’s a hint of Stockholm Syndrome, there’s the thrill of the secret, of impossible love losing its luster in fact, and so on.

This is complicated stuff — and I think there are also references to the French Revolution as well, which I haven’t even mentioned (The Tennis Court Oath itself is the moment where the French people “came out of the closet” to form the National Assembly). Or smaller things that I’m less sure of — is “ash tray” a reference (even visually) to “Ashbery”?

The point is, though, that I don’t care about this stuff.  Or, rather, my enjoyment of this poetry is entirely other than the enjoyment I get from what I consider to be great poems, the poems that work like spells.  The pleasure in Ashbery is the pleasure of a Rubik’s Cube — the text is a puzzle to be solved, which happens to be constructed in the music of language.  It’s more than just a Rubik’s Cube, because even when you come to an interpretation of the poem, there’s an indescribable mystery to it, that pang of unexplained epiphany.  Even the riddle’s answer is more than you can wrap your head around.  This is art.  You can’t argue that it isn’t poetry — but it’s not my poetry.

All this to say — yesterday’s definition was too narrow and personal.  There are really three kinds of poetry, and I can contort their categories enough to call them the Three E’s:

  1. Exclamatory — The artful and didactic expression of preconceived sentiment. This is greeting card and occasional poetry.  The kind your aunt who never reads likes you to send her.  What George Orwell referred to last week as “good bad poetry,” and what Elizabeth Alexander read last month. This is actually by far the most popular, though we wish we could show the masses what they’re missing.
  2. Experiential — The poetry-as-spell I described yesterday. The poem is an incantation, a rhythmic shaping of the breath that uses the body as a medium and so recreates an emotional or mental experience for the reader.  This is my kind of poetry, and I believe the most popular among so-called “poetry users.”
  3. Exegeses — (A hard word to say, even harder to turn into an adjective…exegeian?) The poetry of analysis, poetry-as-puzzle.  This is the poetry of the academics, emphasizing condension, allusion, subversion, lexography, and etymology, among many other tools.  The least popular, but the most critically acclaimed.

A cynic would say that exegesis poetry is only popular, even in academia, because it justifies the position of the professor (or critic) as a conduit to the God of Poetic Truth.  When the dean comes around, you can show how much work you’ve been doing, because the students books are filled with marginalia, all the allusions they wouldn’t have noticed without you.

I’m not so cynical, though.  Breaking down “They Dream Only of America” was fun tonight.  Just not kind of fun I prefer to receive from my poetry.  I want an experience, not a challenge — unless I’m really in the mood for it.

But I think poetry is done a disservice by having only one name for itself.  In high school you’re taught to analyze poems, to look for all the hidden meanings and allusions in your CliffsNotes so you can write an essay about them, as if all poems are about the exegesis.  So you miss the joy of just experiencing the kind of poems that don’t need to be broken down.  On the other end of the spectrum, “Hallmark verse” gets called poetry, too, and so we have to feel embarrassed as poets that “Roses are red” is considered the same art form.  It’s not — these three categories of poetry are entirely different — they operate on different parts of the mind, and they have entirely different goals.  The only thing that unifies them is the superficiality of how they look on the page.

Earlier I said I don’t support the balkanization of poetry, but maybe that’s not true.  I think if we started looking at them as separate entities, it  might be easier to appreciate each one for what it is and is trying to do.

______

* It’s worth noting that Ashbery was born in Rochester, NY, and grew up in the small town of Sodus, about an hour’s drive to the east.  I was born in the same place, and my first memories are of Sodus, where I lived from ages 2 through 5.  The two flowers mentioned in this poem are of especial interest to locals.  The annual spring celebration in Rochester is called the Lilac Festival, and the University of Rochester was built on a field of dandelions — the yellow weed, I’ve heard, becoming the school mascot for nearly a century, until students started taking exception to the “dandy” image on their chests, and changed the nickname to the much more manly Yellowjacket.  Could Ashbery have been referencing this urban legend?  I have no idea.

What Is Poetry: A Golden Nugget Post

Note: I only have a small number of ideas about poetry which are actually worth sharing. A handful of ideas — which may or may not even be original — does not a blog make, so I have to dole them out in small portions, with a whole lot of filler in between. These meaningful posts are conveniently labeled “Golden Nugget Posts,” named after my first car (a gold ’82 Chevy stationwagon). This is one such post.

Don’t ask me why it’s taken a poetry editor five years to realize how much fun it can be to listen to podcasted poetry — those are deeper mysteries — but I’ve spent a lot of time this week listening to past episodes of the nicely produced Pacifica Radio program Poet’s Cafe.  M.C. Bruce and Lois P. Jones have interviewed scores of interesting poets on the show, from all levels of fame, and a variety of backgrounds.  The most common question is this: “What is your definition of poetry?”

I’ve listened to about a dozen episodes so far, and when this question is asked, the poets invariably stammer and ponder, backtrack, and then hedge whatever answer they finally come up with against the inevitable subjectivity of artistic experience.  Listen for yourself.  This fact has only reinforced what I’ve already come to believe, having edited dozens of literary interviews: Most poets, even the most talented, those more brilliant than I can ever aspire to be, have little idea what they’re actually doing, or how they do it. Poets talk about poetry like the old parable of the blind men describing an elephant: “It’s long and slender like a snake!” “No, it’s thick and sturdy like the base of a tree!” Even though they’re all talking about the same thing.

And it drives me nuts. Because, though I may just be young and naive and sophomoric, the answer is excruciatingly obvious to me.  It’s self-evident and indisputable:

Poetry is magic.

I don’t mean magic as some grand self-important metaphor, or that poetry will make the table float up off the floor and wow the crowds. I mean poetry is real, honest to god, actual-because-it-works magic.

Last month I started playing a real video game for the first time in about a decade.  I wanted something to become engrossed in, something to play when I’m tired and want to escape from the world. So I looked for a game that had the biggest world to lose yourself in, and Google told me that game was Morrowind. It’s basically Dungeons & Dragons on the computer, with swords and shields and health points and all that– including magic.  If you’re not a wizard and adept at magic, you cast your spells by reading a scroll.  Each scroll has a silly little phrase, like “Woe be upon you”, and presumably your character says the phrase aloud to produce the desired effect.

That’s what a spell is: a string of words you recite to produce some desired effect. And that’s what poetry is: a string of words you recite to produce some desired effect.

Unlike in Morrowind, there are no poems for walking on water or shooting lightning out of our fingertips — but you could easily say that there are poems for healing.  There are poems for laughter, poems for joy, poems for sadness, poems for epiphany, poems for transformation.

Another word for a spell is a mantra, which comes from the Sanskrit “man” (to think) and “-tra” (tool) — literally translated, then, a mantra is a tool for transforming the mind. Mantras have been a key component to meditation in the Vedic tradition for thousands of years, and are taken as seriously as any religion, distilled in the now infamous Om. Buddhism has the Great Compassion Mantra, and the Heart Sutra. Hinduism has mantras for Vishnu and Shanti. Mantra japa are recited in cycles of 108, counted on beaded necklaces called malas, which do more than just remind one of Catholic prayer beads — they’re one in the same.

No matter what tradition they’re working form, people use the sounds and rhythms of language as a nexus of meditation, in an effort to alter their own mental states. That’s all poetry is — a spell, a prayer, a mantra, transcribed by one and recited by another.

Once you see poetry in this way, other aspects of the artform start to make a lot of sense:

  1. Every sound is important.  If you say Abracablahblah instead of Abracadabra, the Count doesn’t turn from a vampire into a cute little bat.  The spell just fails. That’s why a certain word in a poem can feel “off.”  And the rhythm matters, too — that’s why a poet can spend the entire day deciding to delete a comma only to add it back again. If you’re conjuring up the Devil, you don’t want to mispronounce his name.
  2. Every time you cast a spell, it loses some of its effect. Cliches are old spells. They’re little poems that used to work, but we’ve used them so often the papyrus is crumbling and the magic’s worn off.
  3. Conversely, fresh language is a new spell, and new spells are the most powerful.
  4. Performance poets are master magicians, who can use weaker spells to great effect.
  5. Page poets craft brilliant spells that only work when you cast them yourself.
  6. Attention matters.  One of the main tenants of any school of magic is the idea that the focused will is central to execution. If your mind starts to wander, or you lose your suspension of disbelief, the spell fails. You have to have faith in the magic for the magic to work.

Most importantly, the poem-as-spell definition explains the fundamental connection between meditation and composition. It explains my favorite quote, by Elizabeth Bishop: “What we receive from great art is the same thing that’s necessary for its creation, and that is a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.” It explains why so many poets like to write in the woods, why they all have little tricks to get in the right mindset, why it helps to read other poems first to prime the pump of language in their heads.

If what a poet is doing is crafting a mantra — a tool for altering one’s mental state — it’s necessary to be experiencing that desired state at the moment of creation.  A poet’s job is to conjure a magical space, and then record it as a string of language, so that others may follow them there.

It’s as simple as that, and we should be able to say it as sincerely as a Vedic priest: All poetry is magic.